Bummer in the City

Since the city is raising our water bill significantly to help pay for storm water run-off, I was motivated to call and register for the credit we get for having a rain barrel. But it also burns my (expletive deleted);  if we're concerned about the problems of storm water run-off, why is it that the city continues to allow building development in our floodplains (which increases storm water pollution, flow rates, and amounts)?  Yet property owners now have to pay for every square inch of impermeable surface? Arghhhh! 


Other ways that we continue to pay more for less: slow or non-existent snow removal, reduced yard waste and composting pickup, no more park rangers, short season pool open times, cutbacks in kids' programs at Cobblestone, and no animal control officers, etc. etc. None of those are shattering of themselves, but they point to a disturbing trend. Apparently, when the city leadership asks with whom its lot is cast, the answer is not with the people who actually live and pay taxes here.   


Another case in point, starting next year the city stops funding for Project Grow's community garden program.  Now this one really bugs me.  In addition to seed saving, an heirloom demonstration garden, composting demonstration, kids' programs, gardening workshops, and special considerations for ADA and low-vision  gardeners, doing away with Project Grow says something about how (little) the city values the concept of food security


I think about this food security thing a lot.  I worry not just about the ills of our current industrial agriculture system that brings us hideous CAFOs, eggs with salmonella, spinach with E. coli - things that we have recently learned to take for granted as the way things are.  It's not just those things - because I hope we all know enough about our local food system to find alternatives to these. But another other aspect of food security that I don't have much control over is the fact that we don't have many farms or farmers left. 


Some scary percentage of farmers is over age 55 and they're not minting a lot of new ones. Farmers are now too small a percentage to be counted as a category on the census - under 5% of the US population now feeds us.  That concerns me. The fact that the US gets over 50% of its produce from Mexico in January and February concerns me.  I would like to know that my state and my community has food security. I would like to know that we are producing enough food to feed all of us all year.  


The Community Food Security Coalition outlines goals of communities working toward food security. These communities:


- Develop just, sustainable, and diverse food systems

- Meet the food needs of everyone, including people with low incomes

- Promote good nutrition and health

- Revitalize local communities and build self-reliance and collaboration

- Foster community economic development and strengthen local and regional

food systems

- Link farmers and consumers, and support sustainable and family-scale farming

- Promote good working conditions and sustainable livelihoods for farmers and

food system workers

- Change policies and institutions to support community food security goals

- Honor and celebrate diverse cultures and traditions

- Enhance the dignity and joy of growing, preparing, and eating food

- Build capacity for people to create change through education and empowerment


Some of the examples they give of activities that support a community's food security include:


Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farms

Farmers' Markets

Community Gardens

Farm to Cafeteria Initiatives

Community Food Assessments

Youth Programs


The good news is that we've got some good examples of these in our community. Sadly, I don't think the city does much to support most of them.  Funding for community gardens isn't as important as a new City Hall.  And I understand that the Farmer's Market will be undergoing a big renovation and storm water cachement project soon. I've heard that most of the proposed changes are not going to help the vendors very much, but will cost as much as $1 million dollars for you and me. Despite promises that it won't interfere with the market, there's a lot of concern about how disruptive the project is going to be. 


The only bright spot that I'm finding here is that we have a City Council election coming up - the primary is August 5.  This will bring the chance to put people on council who care about food security and access.  People who are going to do something to make sure that the $80 million we're spending on the Greenbelt actually preserves farms that can feed us rather than industrial operations that extract our land resources and send their "product" to some foreign country.  I've got my calendar marked. 


The other bright spot - my tiny irises are all in bloom. And I'll be able to say something cheerier tomorrow. 


"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
 -- Martin Luther King Jr.

Copyright 2011 - The Farmer's Marketer